The Offshore Medical Student: There’s No Place Like Home

December 26, 2013
Willie Carter

photo (3)

Photo by Willie Carter, III

Much like U.S. medical schools, Caribbean medical schools have started their holiday breaks as well. Particularly, my school (CMU School of Medicine) finished end of semester exams during this past week. All medical school schedules have variation. But as I stated in my first blog posting, my school follows a trimester system like many U.S. universities do. The last day of scheduled exams was Friday, December 20th and the holiday break officially begins on Monday, December 23rd. Our break officially ends on January 13th.

After exams some students choose to stay on the island to explore for a few days due to our busy school schedules allowing minimal time to do so during the semester. Other students leave the exam center heading straight to the airport. Then there is a small number of students who choose to spend their holidays on the island – for one reason or another. Personally, I can’t imagine doing the former or the latter and here’s why.

No matter where you attend medical school, you will be challenged mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, attending medical school outside of the U.S. adds an additional layer of emotions. You are in a foreign land where very little (and generally no-one) is familiar to you. All of your family and friends are an ocean (at least) apart from you. This can be very taxing emotionally at times. Not to mention trying to have (or continue) any kind of romantic relationship. Put mildly, nerve wracking! So, in short, this is why I generally race to the airport to get home as soon as time permits me to do so.

Speaking of getting home, it is not as simple as it sounds. Getting to and from the States is normally a whole day ordeal, changing planes at least twice and laying over in airports for a few hours at a time. You would think this is tiresome considering this is post-exams. In actuality, not so much. I think being back home, anywhere in the U.S. in this case, helps one to overcome the otherwise stressors. Not to be misunderstood, the Dutch Caribbean/Netherland-Antilles is a nice, safe, friendly, developed island to live on. But, for me, there’s no place like home.

Being home and spending time with family and friends for the holidays is priceless. I will do my best to enjoy being with my family and friends before leaving in January. The challenge will be trying to balance my study time (yes, I will study more) in between spending time with loved ones. The time will seemingly ‘fly by’, but the memories that will be made will last forever and sustain me through next semester.

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Willie Carter

Willie Carter Greetings! I am a medical student at Caribbean Medical University (CMU) located in Willemstad, Curacao-Netherland Antilles. Prior to medical school, I researched at NEI/NIH as a graduate student. I attended graduate school at Towson University in Towson, MD where I studied cell and molecular biology. Before graduate school, I completed my undergraduate work at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA – Roll Wave! I enjoy the clinical and research aspects of medicine; however, at this point, I am not 100% sure which area of medicine I will pursue. In my ‘spare’ time I enjoy playing piano, driving/exploring, laser tag, bowling, and reading (in that order).For me, the blog has provided lots of insight as it relates to the life of a medical student, often reminding me that I am not alone on this rigorous journey. Reading about others’ experiences continues to inspire and encourage me. My goal here is hopefully to pay it forward by inspiring and encouraging others in addition to bringing a U.S. international medical student’s perspective to the blog. Cheers!

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